A joint is any point in the body where one bone connects to another; the space between the joints is what allows for proper movement, flexibility, and function. Joints vary from those that barely move (like the joints or sutures in the skull) to highly flexible joints that move in many directions, like the wrist, knee or hip. All joints are supported and connected by muscles, ligaments, and tendons, and cushioned by cartilage that helps protect the joint surfaces.
Joint pain typically results from one or more of three factors. Trauma can lead to joint injury. A major trauma like a fall or auto accident can result in damage to the bones, muscles, and soft tissues. Low-level trauma that results from repeatedly performing the same motion (think of a pitcher throwing a ball many times a day for months) can also cause joint pain. A diet that causes inflammation and mental stress that results in chronic muscle tension are other possible sources of joint pain.
Muscles, ligaments, and joints must all function properly and work together. If there is a problem with the joint, the muscles and ligaments either become too short or too long. This adds additional stress on the joint or can destabilize it, increasing the potential for injury and adding to the pain. Stressed muscles also leak chemicals and toxins that further irritate the tissues and cause inflammation.
Joint dysfunction often results from misalignments. For example, when the vertebrae (bones of the spine) are not in correct alignment, the patient may have neck or back pain. Knee pain can result when the bones of the knee are out of alignment. Chiropractors can correct the alignment problem and restore normal range of motion, which allows the joint to heal. Chiropractors also teach patients exercises to strengthen and stretch muscles, and can evaluate and help correct postural imbalances that may be creating or exacerbating the problem.
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